The plot also thickens in the Ukraine. Crimea, the heavily ethnic Russian section of the Ukraine with the warm-water port, voted to secede from the Ukraine and join Russia. The new pro-Western government claims that is illegal, as is the European Union and the United States, which are considering sanctions against Russia, which had already moved troops into the region.
Crimeans voted overwhelmingly Sunday to leave Ukraine and join Russia, election officials in the breakaway peninsula said, with the extraordinarily high figures capping a one-sided campaign of intimidation and heavy-handed tactics that blocked most voters from hearing a vision for any alternative other than unification with Moscow.
Shortly before midnight, with tens of thousands of people jamming Lenin Square and the streets of Simferopol, Crimean political leaders declared that 93 percent of voters had chosen to be reunited with Russia. Fireworks exploded overhead while a male chorus sang the Russian national anthem from a giant stage, and people screamed and hugged each other.
In Sevastopol, officials say the turnout was 89.5 percent, and preliminary results are that 93 percent voting to join Russia. . . .
The move toward unification with Russian came as Western powers including the White House rejected the referendum even as Russian President Vladimir Putin described it as “fully consistent with international law and the UN Charter.”
The West is eying rapid sanctions following the vote, and a flurry of diplomatic calls took between Moscow, Washington and European capitals even as tensions rose elsewhere in Ukraine.